#62 Gap Year: Is it a better freshmen start? Transcript



Lisa Marker-Robbins 00:00


If you drift into that gap year, without a plan in place of what you’re going to do with your time or what your teen is going to do with their time, then you don’t have as great of a chance of having these positive outcomes. I always talk about designing your future not leaving into chance or drifting into it. And that goes for this as well. There are a number of different ways that you can do this. There’s DIY ideas, there are paid experiences, and some colleges even have designed it for the student already. Is it possible for you to put your teen on the path for a better freshman start? For Gap Year evangelists, they have no doubt that taking a break from the traditional college timeline, adds value and creates a better college experience. Often H Spring High school seniors might start thinking about taking a year off before starting college because maybe they don’t feel ready to head to campus, or they are disappointed in their final options, seeking out a solid plan B. So now March is the perfect time to talk about the gap year option, even if you have a younger student. So don’t tune me out. If you’ve got a ninth grade or 10th grade or 11th grader, you may just discover from what I share that you want a gap year to be your plan a instead of your plan B. So this episode has something for everyone. And, and this is going to be a solo episode with me your host, Lisa Marker-Robbins, I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. So let’s start with what is a gap year. This is when a high school senior who intends to enroll in college decides to take a year off. Over in Europe, it’s wildly popular. I looked at stats from different countries throughout Europe and found that really on average, and this is just my best estimate about 20 ish percent of European high school graduates who intend to go to college take that gap year off before dipping their toe into college. Conversely, well, gap years are on the rise on American soil. Only about 1.2% of American students take that year off, and then head on to college. So we need to think about this as an option. Because as I said, those evangelist out there, they think and some of the colleges, I’m going to show you show that this is a fantastic option that leads to better outcomes. Now, as a parent, you might be a little bit concerned when you think about this. If my teen takes that year off between high school and college, my college bound teen,

are they really gonna go ahead and go to campus after that year off? Well, statistically, 90% of college bound high school students that take a gap year after high school do actually enroll in college. So for the vast majority of you, it’s not going to derail those college bound aspirations. And for the other 10% You know, college isn’t the best path for every single student. So we don’t know the stories of that other 10% Maybe they I don’t know, they get out there and they

 learn something and discover something. We’re going to talk about what you can do on these gap years, but they learn something and discover something about themselves. That makes them realize they don’t have to go to college or perhaps college isn’t the best fit for them. I often share with my florist friends that if you’re listening, you are one of them. That my youngest, and when I say youngest, I mean by two minutes, Caleb he did the trades route. So he did a vocational program while he was in high school the last two years and then hopped right into his entrepreneurial goodness and construction and carpentry doing just fantastic as a now 21 year old. So I’m a firm believer that while I work to support teens and their parents on this college bound journey, the college bound journey is not for everyone, not even all of my children. So moving right along. When do you figure out that you want to do a gap year? How does applying to college work with this? Well, Middlebury College who’s a firm supporter of the gap year experience they really endorse gap years. They encourage and I agree that students even if this is your plan a to do a gap year that you go ahead and do the traditional route of applying to college in the 12th grade year in the fall of 12th grade. See the National Association of College admissions counselors now CAC did a study and have found that 89% of universities have what we would call a deferment policy. This means that the student applies as a 12th grader, they’re admitted, they say that they intend to go, and then they let the college know that they want to defer for one year. Now there might be a number of reasons for that, you know, maybe there’s even a medical reason for that. However, most cases is just deferring for a year because a student wants to have a gap year. So as you’re doing your college bound journey, if this idea of a gap year at all starts to feel like hey, that might be a good idea for my student you want during the college bound process, college selection, and later application. To check out the deferment policies for the colleges to which your student is applying. Like I said, about 89% of those colleges are going to allow you to defer. Now as I was checking out some policies, as I was preparing for this particular episode, I found that there are some exceptions. So with everything in college admissions, read the fine print, some of the exceptions that I found was if your student was admitted off the waitlist, so the decision on the part of the college in the spring of the senior year was we’re putting you on a waitlist. And then they later admit you that those students at many colleges would not be permitted to do a deferment for a gap year. Another one, some of the colleges said, if we said, Yep, we’re admitting you, but you aren’t going to be able to start in the fall, we’re going to do a mid year start. So some colleges have policies where they say, Okay, you’re admitted, but we’re not taking you in the fall, one of my former students has happened to him at the University of Southern California, they said, We want you, but we’re not going to allow you start in the fall, you’ll be a January start a winter start second semester. So I did find some exceptions around that. So because colleges in large part will allow a deferment, then I really encourage students to go ahead and apply to college on that traditional timeline, even if a gap year is their plan A, the reason why is gap years need to have purpose. So when you’re thinking about what a gap year is, it’s not Hey, take a break, go have fun hanging out with your friends don’t do anything productive. And you know, some students are taking a gap year because they just need mental health break, they need to hit pause on academics, that’s fine, but they should still do something with purpose. So if you’ve designed a gap your experience with intention, beginning with the end in mind, which you guys know, I’m a huge proponent of, then you don’t want applying to college, writing all the essays to be a distraction during that gap year, that gap year will serve you better if you can be focused, and have intention and attention to what you have designed. So go ahead and get those applications and in the 12th grade, even if a gap year is your plan a now the gap year Association, which is a nonprofit, did a study. And they asked students it was a survey. So this was not just self reported. You tell us what the outcome was they did a study giving them many choices. I think it was like 10 or 12 different options that they could choose. And they said, What was your biggest takeaway from the gap your experience with that in mind, the top three outcomes that were selected by students and it was interesting, these three all came in around


 80% of respondents said I looked at the spread it was somewhere between like 79 and 82%. So let’s just call all of these right about 80%. Learning how to interact with people from different backgrounds, people from other countries, people different from themselves, which is a fantastic skill to have. It’s a great soft skill, it’s going to serve well into adulthood into the workplace. Simon Sinek causes human skills, not soft skills, and I am quickly adopting that term. Number two, increased maturity Hey, I just grew up I had experiences that helped me to grow up. Can I have an amen for Are all the parents and those who work with teenagers out there, that is a big positive. And finally coming in at 79%, I think it was boosted self confidence. They got out there, they did new things they got out of their comfort zone. And doing so gave them a sense of self confidence that they didn’t have when they were in high school. And it was going to serve them well in the future. Now, I already mentioned designing and not drifting for positive outcomes. So if you drift into that gap year, without a plan in place of what you’re going to do with your time or what your team is going to do with their time, then you don’t have as great of chance of having these positive outcomes that we just talked about. I always talk about designing your future, not leaving into chance or drifting into it. And that goes for this as well. There are a number of different ways that you can do this. There’s DIY ideas, there are paid experiences, and some colleges even have designed it for the student already. I’m going to link in the show notes to Episode 13. When I had Holly bull on the show about a year ago, and we talked about gap years, we did a lot of brainstorming on the DIY side of this. So I’m definitely going to link to that in the show notes. I think that would be helpful for you to listen to. Also, if you find that you’re interested in learning more about gap years and what might be possible. Now what do people typically focus on? What do these teenagers that are doing this gap year typically focus on during this time? Number one, a lot of them focus on personal development, that’s might be directly, or it might just end up being indirectly a byproduct of what else they do. You find as they’re doing personal development. And this, I think, goes into that increased maturity piece that we were talking about earlier. They might gather those life skills, you know, doing the laundry, managing their time, things like that, independence, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, all of which are really good. But that’s just not going to come by chance. Again, you need to design what you’re doing. But personal development and being your focus could be a very fantastic driver for what you want to do with your gap year experience. Another one, you guys know that my favorite hat that I ever wear in my professional life is that of a college major in career coach. I meet families who, you know, my ideal time to start college major and career coaching so that it sets up a student on an intentional path, if I had my way, is somewhere by the end of 10th grade. Not all first semester 10th graders are ready for it. But I love the idea of at least by second semester 10th grade or even going into the junior year. However, having done that work for well over a decade with 3600 students, I meet families who don’t really get intentional about the college major and career peace or that career exploration until the student is a senior, or they’re in college. Or maybe they’re in the middle of a gap year. So if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, Oh, we’re kind of late to the game of this college major and career exploration that Lisa’s talking about, I use a three part step by step framework to get students there. A gap year can be a great time to be intentional around the college major and career piece. So that before you set off to spend $100,000, your teen is making an informed decision. They might even if they get really intentional, change their path, they might find that they they discover things that are better aligned for them. And a 10 year study of students who did Gap Year Experiences 60% of students who had gone on to do a gap year and their focus was career exploration said that is set them on their current career path or academic major. So they got really clear on what they were going to do. Others said it confirmed the choice that they already had. So a positive outcome using a gap year for career exploration based on a 10 year study of students who are doing gap years. Another option is service, doing community service, it might relate to that career exploration piece, it definitely is going to work with that personal development piece


 and whether that can be at home, whether that can be within an organization, DIY or abroad. Service can be a really great option for a student who’s going into a gap here. Now related to that is cultural immersion. mission. So that’s going to be going abroad. And that relates back to a large number of the students who do an intentional gap year are doing so with in mind going abroad, right? That was a little hard to do probably during COVID. That’s getting easier. And that’s going to relate to that first outcome of learn how to interact with people different from myself, that learn how to interact with people different from me can be accomplished on US soil or abroad. But certainly going abroad is going to put that on the fast track, right? So cultural immersion, I really encourage you as a family to talk about, does your teen have an itch to do something abroad at some point, post high school before they enter into their career. And that can come in two ways. It can come in the form of a gap year, and between high school and college, or it might be study abroad. So don’t feel that just because your student wants a cultural immersion experience that it has to be in a gap year colleges are really fantastic with their study abroad programs. With that being a college and career expert, I do want to mention that there are certain majors that present a challenge with doing a study abroad program. So if you’re thinking about one of these majors, if this is where you’re headed, I want you to really ask the colleges, if it’s going to be problematic before you enroll. So those majors are nursing, those Nursing majors for small, highly competitive programs to get into, and the Nursing majors have to do clinical hours in the hospital. And that can be very challenging to figure out if with a study abroad, education, those going into teaching, they have to do field experience hours, those are two majors. Actually, if your student doesn’t start them as a freshman, they can be difficult to impossible to graduate in four years. If your student hasn’t declared that major in their freshman year, it can be somewhat challenging to switch into that major, if you later figure out that you want that major. That’s why I really encourage students to do the work while they’re in high school so that those majors that are highly competitive, are very timeline driven, that you have to stay on a cohort on a particular path that you’re rolling them in or out before you’re applying to college. Engineering is another one, architecture and finally, fine arts where you need not only the equipment, but you need the studio time as well. Now, let’s talk about outcomes a little bit more. So those are four of the things that you may want to think about as you’re designing a gap year experience, personal development, college major and career exploration, service, and possibly cultural immersion. Middlebury, I mentioned them earlier did a study that showed that gap year students outperform students who did the traditional route of high school graduation immediately in the college. And they had a statistical significance in grades and other outcome. As a matter of fact, the study showed that their grade point was 23% higher than the students who didn’t do a gap year. So if you’re concerned about this, you know, that’s where that personal development that maturity comes in. I know I did much better in my master’s program than I did in my undergraduate program. It really was because of maturity. Many colleges embrace gap years, just to name a few Princeton University they have a Princeton’s bridge year program, if they no cost for admitted students no cost nine month International Service Program. Tufts University offers a one plus for bridge year program. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also has a gap year fellowship program with funding and supports the students in designing what they’re going to undertake. Colorado College talks about Gap Year intentionality, but their program looks to be more DIY. Now on each of those programs, sites. They even link you to other resources if you want to do not a DIY but you want to check out a program that you might want to enroll in. Verto is a newer program. I think it’s only about five years old, and they currently have 70 College partnerships where the student does a study abroad but they’re actually taking college classes while they’re doing their abroad immersive experience. So you might want to check that out as well. So what I really want you to do is think about what’s possible. What could this look like? Get creative, get bold again, go back to that episode. Number 13 that I’m going to link to with Holly bowl, we had a really creative discussion around ideas on what to do. And she has a program that is a paid program.


He did go to the gap year Association website, visit the College sites and just Google these experiences, and you’re gonna find great options. Remember that any thing that you think you might do, so if you’re thinking about this as your plan a or your plan B, my final piece of advice is do it with intention. Begin with the end in mind and design where you’re headed. Just like I do with all of my coaching for my college and career program, we need to be intentional. Okay, for your college bound conversation this week, I want your family to sit down and just discuss gap here versus study abroad. And maybe you have a student who has no interest in going abroad and that’s okay too. As you do so I also would encourage you if you have a student who is interested in this, look into the policies and opportunities for the colleges that on your current list. My Flores friends if you found this inspirational and you want to share it with other families that maybe are looking for a Plan B or might want to entertain it as a Plan A please share this with the friend. This helps me get the word out so that I can serve my best purpose which is supporting teens and their parents. Okay, my friends, make it a great week.